Bob Iger Steps Down At Disney, Having Presided Over Several Major Acquisitions

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Originally published on February 26, 2020 4:16 pm
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Walt Disney's longtime chief Robert Iger said yesterday he no longer wanted to lead the company on a daily basis. His new title will now be executive chairman. Walt Disney, of course, owns Disney Land and the ABC network, ESPN and - thanks to Bob Iger - much, much more. NPR's David Folkenflik takes a look at Iger's imprint on the entertainment giant.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: In 2017, Bob Iger struck a $71 billion deal for Disney to acquire most of Fox's entertainment assets, like 20th Century Fox, the FX channel, its stake in Hulu and more. Fox's Rupert Murdoch was selling, and told Fox Business Network he was sold on Bob Iger, too.

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RUPERT MURDOCH: I made it a condition of the deal that he would stay on.

FOLKENFLIK: Iger promised to stick around through the end of 2021. That meant forgoing political ambitions, a run for governor maybe or the White House. Now he's going to be executive chairman of Disney, yielding his CEO title to resorts chief Bob Chapek. Here's Bob Iger.

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ROBERT IGER: What was next in terms of my own priorities is making sure that the creative pipeline in the company was really rich, that all of our creative engines were working extremely well, and I wanted to spend more and more of my time on that.

FOLKENFLIK: Iger spoke yesterday to CNBC's Julia Boorstin.

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IGER: The only way that I was able to do that was to give up the day-to-day running of the company, to pass the torch on to Bob.

FOLKENFLIK: Since Michael Eisner left Disney in 2005, Iger has moved dynamically, buying Pixar...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOY STORY")

TOM HANKS: (As Woody) Andy's coming, everybody. Back to your places. Hurry.

DON RICKLES: (As Mr. Potato Head) Did you see my ear?

FOLKENFLIK: ...Marvel...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE")

RYAN REYNOLDS: (As Wade Wilson) Great. Stuck in an elevator with five guys on a high-protein diet.

DANNY HUSTON: (As William Stryker) Oh, Wade.

FOLKENFLIK: ...Lucasfilm...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH")

IAN MCDIARMID: (As Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) Good, Anakin. Good (laughter). Kill him.

FOLKENFLIK: ...And, of course, Fox Studios and "The Simpsons."

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DAN CASTELLANETA: (As Homer Simpson) Hey, everybody. Here comes fun (laughter). Ow.

FOLKENFLIK: And now there's the release of Disney+ to stream to cord-cutters. The Murdochs said that Fox had what they called scale, which is to say it was big enough to compete with the huge tech companies, each willing to spend billions of dollars a year on programming. They weren't, so like so many others, they sold. Of all the players in Hollywood, Disney has bulked up and is ready for the fight, thanks to Iger.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "FANSHAWE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.